Winter weather in the south of England can often be benign but gloomy throughout the colder months. But that should never lull us into a false sense of security when it comes to winter weather driving precautions. From country hills that vanish into mist and fog, to roads that can rapidly turn to ice, from compacted sudden snowfalls to horrendous southern storms – our weather can get just as nasty as those more used to wintry driving conditions.
Care for your car, and for you!
The number one tip before any of the nasty weather hits is to organise a thorough winter car check. Do this yourself if you know what you are looking for, or take your car to a garage for a professional dose of winter car care. This involves checking the wipers, tyres, antifreeze level, battery and brakes. A dying battery is a nightmare in winter, so if you’ve noticed your lights dimming in autumn or have trouble starting at the best of times, a replacement will save you a lot of hassle in the colder months when the conditions make them less reliable and greater use of the heater and lights increase the drain.
If you are a rural driver, then winter tyres might be an option, but if you’re a city type your standard tyres should be fine, as long as they are in good health. Any windscreen chips, no matter if they passed your MOT, should be treated or get the screen replaced. Winter weather will provide plenty of freezing water that can expand the chip and turn it into a full-blown crack, and with more debris being thrown up from the road, you are just one wrong misfortune away from a major accident.
When those checks are done you should then pack your car with a winter emergency kit. This should include a shovel, ice scraper and plenty of de-icer and screenwash for the car, and some essentials for you. A torch, blankets, coat, high visibility jacket, phone charger or power pack, extra sunglasses for low-sun driving and a paper road map or route in case you lose phone signal or power.
On the day of any long journey, always pack extra food and drink, toilet tissue, medicine and other personal essentials. Before you set off on any trip in winter, if there’s a need to de-ice the car, then do it in advance of setting off. Make sure you clean the inside of the windscreen as well, as the low sun can show up every smear or mark and obstruct your vision. If there is a build-up of snow, then remove it all from your car, not just the windscreen, no one likes lumps of snow flying toward their car, think of other drivers too. Clean your lights before each trip as these will rapidly get covered in a layer of icy mud that can reduce other drivers’ ability to see your car. Drivers should also not rely on the general weather forecast or what your mobile app tells you, especially in changeable conditions. Check online weather radar maps to see storms, snow or rain moving across your route, and plan accordingly.
Winter driving tips
When on the road, especially untreated surfaces, you should always accelerate and decelerate gently. Aggressive changes in speed are more likely to cause an accident, especially where black ice is lurking. Judge your braking distances with care and allow double the usual stopping distance. You should also drive with more caution than you usually would. After heavy rain, beware of aquaplaning and prepare to reduce power to help bring the car back under control. If you do get caught in an icy skid, then the best approach is to reduce the pressure on the accelerator, then steer where you want the car to go very gently. Reduce speed further if needed and only tap the brakes if the car continues to move offline, gently turning the steering more where you want to go. The best way to get you and your car through our unpredictable winter safely is to ensure it has a good health check before the bad weather arrives and to drive more carefully, no matter how fine the roads or weather look. Fallen trees, hungry wildlife looking for a meal at the side of the road and an increase in the number of accidents are just some of the reasons why winter driving is a hazard, but with the right precautions, it should not turn into anything worse.
Don’t wait until it is too late – Book your pre-winter service